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Holding a tattoo machine correctly entails much more than just getting a good grip on it and digging right in.
All needle tubes should be stainless steel and all correctly manufactured stainless steel tubes come complete with a knurled grip on them. The basic hold on the needle tube (already set-up in the machine) is the standard pencil-grip. Spring tension test-push down the armature bar, release the tension slowly until the front spring makes contact with the contact screw and stops, the armature bar should continue to move very slightly before it stops. This is a rough tension check, always test the machine again when it is fully assembled with a needle bar, tube and rubber band. The slight flex of the front spring is what allows variability and versatility in the machine's function--to be turned down to shade consistently smooth grays and turned up more for solid coloring or heavy lining without beating up the skin.
When running the machine and viewing it from the side (coil side), if the front spring makes a slight football shape, there is way too much tension on the rear spring. We will not discuss the details of construction concerning the power supply, instead we will discuss how it applies to a tuned machine. Before we get into that, understand that if there are fluxuations in power, it may be the building's own electrical wiring which may be responsible for any power surges.
The adjustable power supply does not control the speed of the needle's travel by turning the dial up or down (faster of slower), instead, it controls the strength of the coil's magnetic field, which controls the force at which the needles will penetrate the skin. Despite what others say, the way a machine runs, can, and should be checked with the the soft part of the thumb on the bottom of the armature bar nub.
The slight pull to the rear caused by the clip cord has a different feel than a machine that is not hooked up.


The tube is held in the hand like a pen and the rest of the machine is naturally behind and above the knuckles.
Using the power supplied in a wall's socket is as close as we can get to consistent power without actually connecting the power source directly into a car battery.
In other words, the more current, the stronger the magnetic field, and the harder the needles will hit.
The way the armature bounces on the fingerprint of the thumb, can give a pretty accurate depiction of what the client will feel when being tattooed, it will also indicate how smooth the force and vibration will be as the needles hit the skin. We are using the distance from the centers of these moving balls as general guide lines for stroke distances and how they apply to each machine use. Therefore, whatever inconsistencies a building's electrical current may have, will show themselves in the way a machine runs through the power supply which runs on this inconsistent current, even if the machine perfectly tuned (an untuned machine will be inconsistent anyway). This is important, it enables the artist to check the machine's versatility and function by feel. Pressing hard on the balls or using the bony part of the thumb or fingernail will not let you know how this machine will run against skin, which is softer than that part of the thumb. A stiffer front spring may do the same thing when more tension is put on the rear spring but remember that the skin is soft and a front spring has to have some flex to it. A machine used as a liner should have these balls bounce closer together than a shader would, and closer than a machine used to line with larger needle groupings.
This is a key factor in achieving the smooth gray shading we all want for portraits or large areas of even gray wash. There is a reason for everything, wether it's to look knowledgeable or wether there really is knowledge behind the action.


This is because the needles will hit the skin at closer proximity, (this is important) so that while moving the hand quickly to line, the line is consistant and solid. No matter the distance the balls travel, these should never get closer to eachother when the power supply is running at lower setting for smooth gray shading or when the power supply is turned to a higher setting for color and lining with larger groupings. Spring gauges, armature bar weight, width of coil post, contact screw material, spring shape and width, wire gauge and layers, resistance from tough skin and rubber band tightness will be factors which may change numerical readings.
The armature bar will reach a maximum stroke when the dial is turned up to a coloring setting, this distance should not change when turning down. So always rely on feel, NOT sound or numbers, neither has anything to do with a quality tattoo as a final product. Rear spring gauge and tension regulates this in combination with the distance set with the turning of the contact screw and the flex (gauge) of the front spring.
The smaller the needle grouping, the lower the setting on the power supply the machine will need to run at, to inject the pigment—a smaller stroke and a low power setting is recommended for single needle use because not much power is needed to make the needle puncture the skin.
Tattoo Shading TechniquesBlack with grey shading tattoo arts are like a representation of who you are and they have a power and magic of their own.
The chart on the following page explains, in measurements, the distances these balls should travel.




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